In a holiday of solemnness to honor and pay tribute to America’s past and current veterans, children often have little awareness of the essential roles veterans have played in our lives. By openly mentioning the topic, children may become intrigued and want to know, first of all, the definition of a veteran. Despite the complexity of answers relating to specific wars, geography, and historic people, Veterans Day can be an opportunity to talk openly about the values of bravery, loyalty, working as a unified team, and the definition of a hero. If you are wondering how to approach the holiday arriving on Sunday, November 11th, here are a few age-appropriate ways to help your children feel included.
A Calendar Walk
Young children need several opportunities to be introduced to, and understand the concept of, veterans. Bringing out the big desk calendar is one way to visually create enthusiasm for the special day to come.
Begin by accessing your child’s understanding by asking, “Who are the military?” Beyond the word “soldier,” parents can mention the individual branches such as the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard; then, discuss any family members who may have served.
Activity: In learning about the exceptional job or title of family members or well-known family friends, children may be eager to mail a picture of patriotic symbols or write a letter.
Through the motto, “Learn how you can help, any day, anywhere,” the organization “Operation Gratitude,” www.operationgratitude.com/express-your-thanks/,is one of several organizations which offer individuals, businesses, or groups the opportunity to assist U.S. Troops, first responders, veterans, military families, and wounded heroes directly.
Tip: Families can donate their Halloween candy to troops overseas, or send care packages or cards.
Say Thank You
Veterans are everyday people who may not be dressed in camouflage or wear their branch, rank, or years of service on a hat or T-shirt. A veteran can be a mom or dad of young children, a son or daughter, a brother or sister. It can be a stereotype for children to think a grandfather or a man defines a veteran.
Parents can model by saying, “Thank you for your service,” when meeting a veteran in a store. By introducing children, they, too, can show kindness by smiling, waving, or saying, “hello!” It is an honor to be the veteran and to know your sacrifice is appreciated, especially by young children.
Books and Conversation
Librarians are eager to assist families by recommending age-appropriate books about military life. In reading together, families can discuss concepts as they come up in the text. Books have a descriptive way to help children understand difficult situations, while painting a picture of the setting and job of the soldier. To expand a child’s understanding, parents can read up to two levels above a child’s reading level.
Recommended titles are:
- H is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet,by Devin Scillian
- Sergeant Reckless:the True Story of a Little Horse Who Became a Hero, by Patricia McCormick (Ages 6 to 10)
- Magic Tree House Super Edition: World at War,1944 by Mary Pope Osborne (Ages 7 to 10)
- The Nathan Hale Hazardous Talesbooks, by Nathan Hale (Ages 8 to 12)
- Max, Best Friend, Hero, Marine,by Jennifer Li Shotz (Ages 8 to 12)
- George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Out-Spied the British and Won the Revolutionary War, by Thomas B. Allen (ages 9+)
- Guts and Glory:World War II, by Ben Thompson (Ages 10 to 13)
Attend a Military Event
Experiences will help children broaden their knowledge. Check your local community calendar to discover when special military events are occurring. It may be a town parade or an air show. Families may consider traveling in the state to visit museums, a battleship, or battlefield.
Our veterans are our history. There is pride in their eyes to see children actively participating in the defense of our country. It is important to expose children to patriotic songs, events, and learn the details of the events and people in our history. By acknowledging Sunday, November 11th, in open conversation, it will ensure our history and the men and women who served and sacrificed are never forgotten!